- Best of Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Island: High Tea to Low Tide
- Vancouver’s Totem Poles
- Vancouver’s Best Hiking
- Family Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
- Focus on Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Weekend Getaway
- Victoria Weekend Getaway
- A Tour Through Time
- Inside Passage Cruises
- Outdoor Adventures
- Winter Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
The first Europeans to venture along North America’s west coast north of the 49th parallel were in search of a northwest passage to the Orient. This fabled route across the top of the continent was first attempted from the east by Martin Frobisher in 1576, but the route wasn’t attempted from the west until the 1770s. Three Spanish expeditions and a fourth led by Captain James Cook, with George Vancouver as navigator, sailed past the entrance to the Strait of Georgia, but none of these ships entered the waters upon which the cities of Victoria and Vancouver now lie. In 1792, George Vancouver returned to the area as Captain Vancouver, leading an expedition sent to chart the waters of the strait. In the process, Vancouver entered Burrard Inlet and claimed the land for Great Britain.
Fur and Gold
The first wave of Europeans to arrive on the west coast came overland in search of fur-bearing mammals. The first to reach the coast was Simon Fraser, who was sent west by the North West Company to establish a coastal trading post. In 1806 he reached the Pacific Ocean via the river that was later named for him, and in 1808 he built a fur fort east of today’s Vancouver. In 1827, the Hudson’s Bay Company established its own trading post, Fort Langley, on the Fraser River 48 kilometers (30 miles) east of present-day downtown Vancouver. Neither of these two outposts spawned a permanent settlement, although Fort Langley was relocated farther upstream in 1838. This new outpost became a hub of the fur trade, and in 1858, when British Columbia became a crown colony, Fort Langley was declared the capital. But the fort’s glory days were to be short-lived.
When gold was discovered on the upper reaches of the Fraser River in the late 1850s, the British government, worried that the influx of Americans was a threat to its sovereignty, declared the whole western expanse of Canada a British colony, as it had for Vancouver Island in 1849. The most important task for James Douglas, the colony’s first governor, was to establish a permanent settlement. Unimpressed by the location of Fort Langley, Douglas selected a site farther downstream, named it New Westminster, and declared it the new capital of the mainland colony.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition